Tuesday, March 08, 2011
Once again, Beck gives us a real cognitive workout, synthesizing previous steps in her program.
People overeat because they are stressed: therefore, reducing stress is an essential element of weight loss and weight loss maintenance.
How to do it? Predictably, Beck treats stress as "problem" to be solved. So once again we need to revisit our priorities: we have to make time for dieting and exercise activities. I cannot permit myself to wallow in the pressures of work. And we need to identify the thinking error at issue in any instance of stress(Day 26), then apply the seven questions technique (Day 27) either to reduce the stress or to conclude that the problem is one incapable of resolution which must be accepted.
Beck believes that stress is primarily related to the thinking error of dysfunctional rules: and in particular the "shoulds" applied to ourselves ("I should be absolutely perfect at my job; I should not ever make any errors; I should win every time; I should stay late every evening to work on files and assist clients . . . "). In addition we apply "shoulds" to others: "My clients should be more appreciative; my kids should be more independent and better launched; my work colleagues should be more helpful . . . ". It's easy to see how dysfunctional rules for myself translate into insuperable burdens for others; after all, if I'm perfect everyone else should be too!! Right . . .
Beck suggests that we can reduce stress by replacing "shoulds" and "shouldn'ts" (for ourselves and others) with "It's more realistic to expect . . . ". So: it's more realistic to expect that the scales won't always move downwards. It's more realistic to expect that sometimes I will mindlessly put food in my mouth standing up. It's more realistic to expect that clients will be frightened, angry, resentful at the changes imposed upon their lives. It's more realistic to accept that adult children in this difficult economy take longer to find their feet.
I don't have perfect control over myself. I don't have perfect control over others. And others, of course, don't have perfect control over themselves.
Oh, well. Oh, well.
But mere resignation to this loss of control is not the best result either. I need to think and permit myself to experience how much more humane the world is -- for me, and for everyone around me -- when I relax my "rules" without an "all or nothing" mentality. It's not the case that I'm either perfect or need not make any effort at all. It's not the case that others are either saints or sinners. There is a middle path, and it's only by adopting the middle path that I can stay on this journey indefinitely.
So . . . clearly this is about more than weight loss. This is about uncovering the perfectionism that underlies so many persistent weight loss problems. The best IS the enemy of the good (as Voltaire told us, only in French!).
Beck is a cognitive psychologist, and so she does deal with these issues primarily inside the head. She might have also discussed how (because we are bodies) excess weight creates biophysical stresses: just carrying it around (knee/hip joints); increased likelihood of heart/diabetes/cancer issues. She might have considered the social stressors of being heavy: the snide side glances delivered to the heavy person approaching the airplane seat, or chowing down on a burger and fries at a restaurant, or loading her cart in the chips aisle at the grocery store. She might also have discussed how exercise short cuts much of this cognitive rumination: endorphins are magic -- as I discovered yet again yesterday skiing over crisp sparkly snow late in the afternoon after a very stressful day at work.
So: SHOULD Beck have expanded her analysis of stress in these ways? It's realistic to expect that she could not deal with everything in the few short pages allocated to this chapter!! And: I'm so grateful she provided me with the insights she did, provoking me to think more deeply about stress, its relationship to weight control and its relationship to thinking errors.
Monday, March 07, 2011
Official weigh in day: and it's 149.5.
Oh, well. Middle number still a 4.
Yesterday was the very best cross country ski weather this winter -- fresh sparkly snow, perfect temperature (-2C) and glorious sunshine with deep morning glory blue sky.
DH ill with flu and unable to join me -- but after the gym and a bowl of my curried chicken lentil soup (fabulous!!) I went out for a very brisk 3 km, and then played on the hill for three more runs down/cardio pumping back up. Oh my!! I'm hoping to get away from work early again this afternoon for another ski!!
Today's the beginning of week six -- the last week of this Beck trek -- and she begins by asking us to review all the progress we've made. We are to build confidence that we have lost weight and will be able to keep off excess weight because we have learned how to be successful. Here the workbook offers a Believe It Chart to check off with some 29 items on it.
Five new skills that resonate with me:
I no longer eat standing up: really really huge. That includes not nibbling on crumbs, licking spoons -- I sit down and enjoy every planned mouthful slowly, mindfully.
I have learned to arrange my environment for dieting success -- it's amazing how much less peanut butter and old cheddar cheese is being consumed in our household since I've started hiding them from myself.
I have learned to plan my eating IN ADVANCE: this is huge, it means I'm no longer debating whether I will have x to eat or not. NO CHOICE! If I had to sum up Beck in two words, it would be these two: NO CHOICE! (And lots of initial rebellion about that . . . . still struggling, of course: still struggling!!).
I have learned how to tolerate hunger: and really believe that hunger is not an emergency.
I have learned to make myself get on the scale daily: this isn't for everyone, but it works for me.
There are quite a few things I was already doing -- such as choosing a nutritious diet plan, modifying the plan in advance, monitoring what I ate (but not carefully enough, and after the fact), making time for exercise.
Areas where I've still got most work to do:
Preparing myself for what the scale will say.
Responding to a sense of unfairness.
Continuously motivating myself to do all of these things . . . only time will tell, but I'm cautiously optimistic that I will gain strength with respect to this continuous motivation -- by giving myself credit.
I am different. I have learned new cognitive skills -- by reading about them, putting them into practice, and blogging about them. (Thanks, all those of you who have dropped by to read my blogs. I appreciate your comments. And have to say, blogging has been part of the process because I do not know what I think till I see what \I say!!).
Sunday, March 06, 2011
OK. I am not good at this. Weighed myself this morning after an IMMACULATE day of eating and exercise yesterday and: up 1 pound. To 149.5 Duly tracked. WAHHHHHHHH!
I do know, I do believe, that weight fluctuates. And said so, when I blipped down to 148.5 on Thursday. Maintained it Friday. And Saturday. But this morning: no. Not.
So, for whatever "reason", even though I told myself it was likely a blip and would likely fluctuate again, I apparently do feel entitled somehow to have remained at 148.5. Or maybe gone lower. But certainly thinking it's "unfair" to have been "punished" by my weight increasing to 149.5.
This is a sabotaging thought. What kind of thinking error? Positive fortune telling. Jumping to conclusions. What evidence that this is untrue? It would be more helpful to remind myself: last weigh in February 28 was 153 (which was up a pound from the lower 152 I'd achieved a couple days earlier than that).
Another way to view this situation? So right now I'm down 6.5 pounds from my official starting weight of 156. Which 156 was after the two weeks of pre-Beck.
And prior to the start of Beck I'd stopped weighing myself conscientiously but am pretty sure I was more like 162. Maybe 163. Although I'd left my ticker at 153, "maintenance range". Which I had left far behind, obviously. But my 8s were tight, no hope of wearing any 6s. Yeah.
Most realistic outcome of continuing the program? I will continue to lose weight.
Effect of believing the thought (that I'm entitled to lose weight every week)? Quitting.
Effect of changing the thought that I'm entitled to lose weight every week? Continuing. I'm in this for life.
What would I tell a close friend? I'm learning to think like a thin person. I've stopped eating standing up. Almost entirely. I've stopped eating unplanned foods. Almost entirely. I've stopped treating hunger as an emergency. Almost entirely. I should give myself credit for all of these accomplishments.
What should I do now? I've got to celebrate every half pound lost. I'm going to read my ARC, my other response cards, get to the gym, stick with my nutrition program as pre-tracked (have made a gorgeous pot of curried chicken lentil soup this morning . . . and my salads for tomorrow's lunch).
Okay: problem solved (whew, that's a lot of work! And worth it. And worth it.)
Now for some distraction: always a good move. Vain visualization works for me!!
Bought yesterday: a very nice vertical colour block charcoal grey and black dress, marked down 75%, slinky size 8 -- good now as a "jumper"with blouse/turtleneck under it or with a a jacket over it (I've got the perfect jacket) and good later as a sleeveless summer business dress if I keep my arms toned!!. Very very slimming!!
And: winning bid on ebay for a "ballet pink" size 8 spring suit, new with tags, also at less than 25% of the new price: something to look forward to . . . !! Nice with a my pale pink and white striped shirt, or a little white lacy cami, and I'm thinking about several scarves that will coordinate, several jewellery items I can try with it . . . . and what about shoes??
Clothes: frivolous, superficial, so unnecessary (beyond soberly decent and appropriate covering, of course!!) --- and so much fun. And so motivating.
There are many ways to prepare for tomorrow's weigh in. And I am preparing. And I am carrying on!
Saturday, March 05, 2011
I'm wondering how many Beck devotees skip or blip over this lesson? Because: as a cognitive psychology technique, this "solve problems" lesson is rigorous, daunting and intellectually demanding -- if a person were to carry it out conscientiously each and every time the issue arises.
In telling us how to solve problems, Beck actually synthesizes three of her earlier approaches. She shows us how to tackle the issue of emotional eating head on. And here the text is far more detailed than the workbook in explaining how it's done.
You've got problems? So do we all. All the time. Big ones and little ones. So don't soothe emotion with eating, she told us yesterday (Day 33). Today, Day 34, she expands upon that instruction by telling us how to deal with emotions that erupt because of problems.
First strategy: identify the problem that's triggering the emotion. Don't just stuff it down with food. Don't smother it. Pull it out and look at it.
What's really bothering me? I should specify the negative thought. And then I should respond to the negative thought.
Responding to the negative thought is, of course, Day 27 revisited -- using the Seven Question Technique.
And the first of the seven questions (what kind of error in thinking am I making?) is Day 26 revisited.
Here's a condensed refresher of the Day 26 "errors in thinking": All or nothing thinking? Jumping to conclusions? Negative fortune telling? Positive fortune telling? Discounting the positive? Emotional reasoning? Labeling? Mind reading? Self-deluding thinking? Dysfunctional rules? Irrelevance? Exaggeration?
OK, pretty vague in the abstract. Let's apply this to a typical problem I have over and over again. Suppose I come home from work stressed and exhausted, and jerk open the cupboard door to stuff my face with four generous tablespoonfuls of peanut butter, standing up. (Not an unfamiliar pattern, pre-Beck!! And logged too -- except logged as 1 tablespoon. Or maybe two, if I were feeling particularly "honest" that day!!).
But that was pre-Beck. And this is post-Beck. So I've gotta stop!! No peanut butter. (It's hidden behind the bag of large flake oatmeal so I no longer see it right away.)
I am now to ask myself. What's really bothering me?
Typical answer: x case involving vulnerable young children and a custody battle.
I generally have quite a number of these situations percolating at any given time, each one of which is highly fact-specific, emotionally gruelling, and matters intensely to my client (one of the parents). But presumably matters even more to the children, who are generally non-represented in the court proceeding, and therefore are persons whom I never meet. On purpose, of course: it would be entirely inappropriate to involve the children with one "side" through mum's or dad's counsel. So I know the children only through my client's description of the children, which is inevitably coloured by bias and bitterness. But kids do matter so much to me.
What's the thinking error? Let's say it was a bad day in court, an apparently hostile response from the judge at a preliminary proceeding. And I find myself thinking that I'm never going to resolve this case satisfactorily. It's hopeless.
Thinking error? Take your pick. Exaggeration. Jumping to conclusions. Negative fortune telling too . . . and dysfunctional rules (gotta win, no matter what).
Next step in problem solving is the second of the seven questions : what evidence is there that this thought is true or untrue? There's substantial evidence based upon past experience that it is untrue: most cases feel desperate at some point but do achieve some measure of resolution. And nobody "wins" a custody battle: the only sure result is that the children will lose if it's not managed carefully.
Is there another way to view this situation? Yes: confidence in the justice system and the residual good will of the parties (both of whom presumably care about their children) and opposing counsel.
What is the most realistic outcome of this situation? Generally speaking the justice system works, parents become less adversarial over time, and the best interests of children do prevail.
What is the effect of my believing this is a hopeless situation? I'll give up. And stress eat probably as well. Which will not help anyone (especially the children) and which will make myself feel much much worse.
What is the effect of my changing my thinking? I'll increase my own sense of self-confidence and self-discipline. Which will help me focus on all of the alternative strategies I've learned through training and experience. Including helping my client learn how to side step the conflict right now and for the next 15 years or so of inevitable co-parenting going forward. Which is likely to achieve a better result for everyone (although maybe not a perfect result).
What advice would I give a friend in this situation? Call in the appropriate resources. We can attempt to invoke the expertise of a mental health expert to assist in resolving the dispute . . . mediator, social worker . . . maybe try collaborative approaches. . . the key is helping both parties and counsel "save face" so no one is labelled "the bad guy".
What should I do now? Close the cupboard, put down the spoon, start heating a bowl of my soup (as per my planned meal tracked yesterday in the Nutrition Tracker), leave the kitchen while that's happening, remind myself that hunger is not an emergency, email myself at work a short memo of what steps I plan to initiate tomorrow, and forget about the problem for now.
I can distract myself by running up the stairs (a little spontaneous exercise . . . back down and up again a couple more times??), patting Charlie and playing with him, getting out of my business suit into my jeans (maybe try that size 6 pair on, see how they're feeling today???) and check my Spark page for comments!! Yeah!!! And then return to the kitchen, eat my soup sitting down slowly and mindfully enjoying every bite. And make myself a bowlful of fresh raspberries, blueberries, blackberries, strawberries and Greek fat free yogourt, also in my Nutrition Tracker . . . filling, satisfying, delicious, all for way fewer calories than those four tablespoonfuls of peanut butter.
OK, Beck is absolutely right. She helps me understand just why weight loss and weight maintenance is about way way more than food. Like SP also tells us. And like my life tells me too. When I pay attention.
It may be true that Beck's problem solving approach is quite idealistic.
It's a lot of work. More work than just stuffing myself with peanut butter. But the peanut butter approach doesn't actually help. In fact, it makes me feel worse right away. Even before I've got the peanut butter taste out of my mouth.
And it's not more work than worrying myself silly, non-productively.
Are all problems capable of resolution using Beck's strategy? No, they are not. Some parents can never learn to put their children's interests first. Some opposing counsel can never resist the desire to "win" at any cost.
Some things (lots of things!! and not just work problems) are beyond my control. There are no guarantees. Beck acknowledges that.
But even if I can't resolve the problem, maybe I can make it a little better. I should try it. And if it doesn't work, at least I can believe that I did my best. That I didn't contribute to making it worse.
Oh, well. Oh, well. Oh, well. Oh, well.
One thing for sure, I can solve one problem. And that would be the peanut butter problem.
So long as I come back to Day 34 and problem solve over and over again, as needed -- and it will be needed -- for the indefinite future.
Friday, March 04, 2011
If Beck's musings on drinking and travel were perhaps not so immediately useful to me, this chapter has huge resonance.
Like most people who've been around as long as I have (!) there have been many emotional challenges in my life and for many many years I believe that I did soothe emotion with food.
But (and Beck doesn't entirely capture this, especially in the context of social get-togethers, travel and so on) food was the treatment of choice for dealing with positive emotion too. So:
And so on.
Beck has persuaded me that hunger is not an emergency requiring immediate treatment with food. (When I'm "hungry" now, I sometimes imagine the sound of an ambulance siren: "BEE-BOP BEE-BOP BEE-BOP" speeding towards me with emergency life-saving supplies of potato chips, yeah right).
And emotion in general is not an emergency which I need to soothe with eating. Eating doesn't work. When the emotion is negative, the excess eating makes me feel worse. Even a little excess eating -- 100 excess calories a day -- packs on 10 extra pounds a year. But worse than that -- since SP is about more than weight loss/maintenance -- eating actually distracts me from dealing with the underlying problem (if it's possible to deal with it). Or in the alternative, it prevents me from achieving that "oh well" equilibrium which matter-of-factly accepts that disappointments and failures are part of human existence.
Beck doesn't write about this, but I think it's equally important: when the emotion is positive, the excess eating takes the edge off it, dulls the happy times. I want to feel the euphoria, not the cheesecake. I want to experience joy, not indigestion. Yeah.
OK, I'm getting it. If emotion is the problem, eating isn't the answer.
And emotion shouldn't be a problem anyhow -- I wanna take a closer look at that!!
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